Butler Residence

Portland, Oregon

The owners of this home, one a professional cyclist and the other an accomplished regional racer, live a life of extremes. They have sought out their true passions and done everything they can to blur the boundary between the pleasures of a simple city life and the pain of their sometimes grueling physical lifestyle, between hard work balanced with equal parts urban and nature play.

They wanted their home to be located in inner southeast Portland, possibly with views of the tallest buildings, and within easy biking distance of their downtown office.  At the same time, they wanted it to support their love of nature.

Fittingly, the house’s design blurs the boundary between the city and the natural landscape. From the ground floor courtyard to the highest roof deck, space and light are manipulated to create spaces that are connected to glimpses of sky, city, and horizon, while maintaining privacy from the immediate urban environment.

A wood wall spirals around the narrow 44-foot wide site. Within this perimeter boundary stands a series of large stucco walls and a massive columnar fireplace that rises through all the floors of the house. Glass fills the gaps between these freestanding elements, serving to create the larger space that is fundamental to the design and function of the house – a protective barrier from the natural and city elements formed by the walls. Within this open-air enclosure, there is a feeling of living in a modern urban compound, separate from but snug within the residential neighborhood outside, with the sky hanging wide and beautiful above them – nature’s finest roof.

A vertically proportioned box clad in custom milled cedar channel siding rests on the ground floor stucco walls, cantilevered to create covered parking and entry areas. Interior space flows between interlocking double height spaces. Windows are placed to wash light seamlessly throughout the interior, reducing contrast and glare from the bright Pacific Northwest light. Sliding louvered sunscreens on the windows’ exteriors offer temperature and light control when needed, working in concert with thermal mass on the ground floor and an operable skylight on the roof to facilitate passive heating and cooling.

Sustainability and energy efficiency are paramount with an air-tight envelope, with radiant heat, heat recovery, high performance glass, FSC certified wood throughout, a green roof, permeable paving and passive temperature control strategies to complete the environmentally built home.

When inside the home, one’s surrounding natural landscape is featured from any vantage point, whether a framed view of a nearby tree, of passing clouds in the sky above, or a panorama of the distant hills above Portland.